Getting from A to B

Lost within the United States is the use of gas scooters as a means of transportation and for good reason. People who drive scooters in China are generally crazy. If you’ve got a scooter you’re now invincible, you can drive in regular traffic and challenge huge trucks, drive in the lane designated for scooters(but probably not), or drive on sidewalks. Another fun fact that adds to the crazy is that under a certain engine power, a driver’s license is not required. Just last week I did a double take when I saw a girl, around twelve years old driving a scooter. Crazy is not confined to just scooters; it is found in cars as well.
Before you can drive a car, it’s time to pass a driver’s test. To pass the test here in English you must score a 90% on an exam most certainly not designed by anyone that has a solid grasp of the English language. I watched my friend try and study for the test and fail three times before passing. At First it’s comedic, the questions are so absurd, so you study and you laugh.
If a driver has driven a motorized vehicle for more than four hours running, he should stop the vehicle and rest for at least
a) 5 minutes
b) 10 minutes
c) 20 minutes
d) 40 minutes
Then you take the test and the bizarre questions you laughed at are now staring back at you. As expected, you fail. Now it’s back to the book to study some more before hoping that logical questions get thrown at you the second time around. But again this is not the case. This cycle repeats itself until you’ve managed to memorize enough to pass.
Congratulations, you’ve passed your driver’s test. Now it’s on to the open roads where you may end up with whiplash, broken bones, and a severe case of road rage. Overly aggressive driving is the norm when it comes to driving around here. I remember back in the United States maybe once in a year I’d possibly ending up in an accident when something goes wrong. In China, it’s about once every time you step into a car. The sad thing is, the way the style of driving has evolved, being non aggressive means you’re not getting anywhere on time.
Another great aspect of driving and living here, which is most certainly my favorite, is the horns. If I ranked the single most important thing that you should know to communicate the most ideas in China, even more popular than things like hello and thank you, is the horn. Everyone uses the horn and they use it all the time. It’s also very contagious, when one person honks their horn, most likely, at least another five to ten people will press their horn as well. Outside of heavy traffic, horns are used to let people know they’re coming. This would be fine and dandy if it wasn’t coming from a scooter flying down the sidewalk at thirty miles per hour passing by you with a ten inch gap.
The surprising thing is, that ten inch gap will never get any smaller, no horn will lead to a ten car pile up, and no scooter will challenge a truck and lose. I’ve been here four months and have not witnessed a single accident. Of the friends I have talked to about the traffic here, I have only heard of one accident and even that one wasn’t so bad. Maybe the drivers of China are not so crazy after all.

Battle of the Firewall

It’s been tough trying to post these last few days since the program I use to connect to Blogger, Facebook, Youtube, etc has been giving me problems. I finally bit the bullet and purchased a program with a monthly fee that is much more stable. Blog posts should occur more often now. 
Wo bu ming bai ni!
I have to say, I’m glad I started this blog because I’m scared to think about where my English would be today without it. The people I interact with on a daily basis are Chinese, French, German, and Indian. Missing from this list are American, British, Australian, etc. Thankfully almost all of the people I interact with on a daily basis can speak English, but not all of them can speak it well. This leads to me greatly simplifying my grammar and vocabulary and slowing the rate at which I speak. After eight months here, I can only hope this blog and my limited interactions with my friends and family back home will be able to lessen the blow to my grasp of the English language.
P.S. the other day I was writing some stuff down and wrote “word” as “yord” and “check” as “chek.” …Uh oh.
America Town
Whenever I’m missing American food and want to pay four times the average price of a Chinese meal, I head to Munchies. This restaurant is about the closest you can come to American food without being in America. It’s got hamburgers, wraps, sandwiches, and Mexican. Not feeling too adventurous after my run in with Mexican food, I decided it would be best to stick to my friend’s suggestion of hamburgers which was a good one because they’re amazing. Sadly, my hamburger isn’t accompanied by the smells of barbeque, the sounds of football, and the sight of red, white, and blue but for now they are a good enough. (And no I didn’t get paid to write that.)

I went to China to become an Engineer and Came Back a Teacher
I think the best thing about China is that they don’t drink coffee and as a result I’m not in charge of coffee runs. The printer is also about two feet away so I’m not in charge of making copies of documents either. Thanks to being born in a native English speaking country, I’ve been given the chance to partake in some projects with a much larger role than a typical intern. One such project was being in charge of writing the final document for the standards of design for my engineering group. Outside of engineering, I’ve been picked to lead an English discussion three hours each week. By the time I finish my internship I’ll be qualified for ESL teaching positions. Sadly, not everything is positive but fortunately the negative isn’t so negative. Not being able to speak Chinese has led to me missing just about every word spoken in meetings except for the rare occasions where the presenter speaks English or one of my coworkers translates. Outside of meetings we sit in an open environment with four desks facing each other. I managed to get placed with the youngest and best English speaking people in my group so time spent outside meetings are generally pleasant. Overall, being a native English speaker in a Chinese company has led to many great experiences and opportunities that I would not have found in an equivalent American company. 

Sanitation in Shrink-Wrap

Could have just cleaned the dishes in the sink…

The Litter Effect

I think trash here is one thing that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to wrap my head around. Maybe it’s just the fact that I’m living a city for the first time but I’ve seen a lot of people litter on the street. The amazing contradiction to people littering so much is the fact that there are only ever a few pieces of trash on the ground. The conclusion that I have made is that there are people paid to pick up the trash, lots and lots of people. Shanghai has roughly twenty two million people, about two and a half times the population of New York City. These people need jobs and for every job that requires one person to do, three people are assigned. This leads to empty clothing stores with six workers standing around doing nothing. The same applies for the trash situation. I feel that the people that litter watch their trash get picked up almost instantly and are almost encouraged to litter more. Hopefully this problem is figured out before it snowballs out of control.
We Could Just Add Recycling Bins…
The same craziness with littering carries over to recycling as well. China seems to lack an official recycling program but will still pay for plastic bottles. The result is many people whose unofficial job is to remove plastic bottles from the trash. I see these people everywhere. Just today I saw someone throw a plastic bottle in the trash and less than five seconds later someone else was picking it out and putting it into their bag. If only there was an official recycling program and then these people would be employed with a salary and the landfills wouldn’t be filling up at an exponential rate. 

Uncomforting Foods

For those of you that don’t know, Mexican food is by far the best kind of food. It’s got meat, and salsa, and vegetables. Most importantly though it has cheese and sour cream, two things that failed to make the cut for the Chinese diet. Since arriving in China I’ve attempted to find good Mexican food. On one of the first nights in my apartment I accompanied my roommate to a local European sports bar. Originally I had no intentions of ordering food but my eyes lit up after finding a chicken quesadilla on the menu, something I’d been craving but  had not had in over a month. With my mind changed and my order made I turned my attention to the tennis match to pass the time and keep my mind occupied. The tennis match had the desired effect and before I knew it the glorious quesadilla was set down in front of me. Less than a second later, the first bite was had, and it was glorious. Good feelings of home washed over me and I knew it would be a great night. Except the good feelings kept washing over me and eventually I was drowning in them. Hidden within the waves of good feelings was the true taste of the quesadilla. I think the taste could best be described by disappointment. It’s like a European, who knows little of Mexican food, took Chinese ingredients and tried to make what he thought was a decent quesadilla. Somewhere along the way he got lost and I ended up with the dish in front of me. I think that night has scarred me from ever attempting to try Mexican food again while in China. Only a few more months and I’ll be stepping off a plane in New York City, quickly hugging my family, and then making a mad dash for a good Mexican restaurant. 

Stairs, Elevators, and Escalators

I do believe escalators might be one of the only annoying things about China. They exist in every subway, food store, and mall. I generally don’t find them annoying in food stores and malls because I visit these stores at most once a week. The subway however, I’ll see about fifty escalators a week, which isn’t even an exaggeration, they’re everywhere! My gripe with the escalators is not their existence; it’s what they do to the people who use them. When a busy train lets off a large group of people at a metro stop, every single person will rush for the escalator. With almost everybody refusing to take the stairs, a line will quickly form where the people at the back are easily waiting two minutes to go up fifteen stairs. Yes I know, “just take the stairs,” you say, and I do. Except now I’m climbing through a massive surging crowd of people attempting to get through to the stairs. Once the stairs have been reached I’ll rush up and try to beat the crowd to the next set of stairs. At this point, I’m ahead of most of the people. At the next set of stairs I decide to risk it and use the escalator this time, hoping not to get stuck behind people who decide to take up the whole escalator. My path is clear and I quickly move up the escalator, taking two steps at a time, this sixty step escalator will be finished in no time. But as soon as I begin, it’s over. A few steps ahead a couple has decided to stop and take up the whole escalator. Instead of asking them to move, the following people just stop and stand as well. I’ve risked it and lost, now to stand and miss the next train. Next time I’ll be sure to stick to the stairs.